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How A 37-Year-Old Customer Service Rep Bought Her $445k Mississauga, ON Condo

Welcome to How I Bought It, where, each month, one Canadian shares how exactly they managed to buy their home. Our goal is to demystify the path to home ownership by talking openly about how people get there.
This month: A 37-year-old customer service rep with a $115,000 combined income
Location: Mississauga, ON
The home: A 660 sq. ft, 1 bedroom plus den, 1 bathroom mid-rise condo that was built in 2000. Includes a locker and two parking spots. The previous owners updated the blinds (California blinds — fancy!), as well as the flooring in the living room, bedroom, and den.
When I bought: June 2020
What I spent: $445,000 (original listing price $474,000)
Downpayment: $90,000 (split $70,000/$20,000 between myself and my partner; $35,000 of what I contributed I withdrew from my RRSP under the First Time Home Buyers' Plan)
Mortgage payment: $1,435 total (split equally, monthly)
Maintenance fees: $480 (monthly). This covers our water as well as a party room, small library, and access to our condo’s gym, although with COVID we’ve yet to see these!
How I bought it: I was born and raised in Mississauga, so the GTA has always been my home. It's also where I attended college, so I had the luxury of living at home. I was always taught to save and be frugal with my money. There weren’t any specific lessons from my parents, but it was definitely a “leading by example” method; we didn’t do trips to Disneyland, but visited extended family across the Eastern Seaboard; we didn’t have super extravagant birthday or Christmas presents. It wasn’t a “what you want,” but a “what you need” household. I had a paper route from the time I was about 11 to 15 or 16, and worked in the service and retail industry part-time while I was in high school and college.
When I started working full-time in my industry after graduating, I continued living at home, and I lived with my parents until I purchased this condo. My thought was: If I have the luxury of being able to live rent-free (something not everyone is afforded), then I should take it. While living at home, I contributed to groceries and paid for the phone and internet (about $120/month for internet and phone and varied week to week for groceries).
When it came to saving, I didn’t allot a certain amount from each paycheque towards saving for a home. I knew that buying a home or condo was something I eventually wanted to do, so it was more about not being frivolous with my money. I also contributed — and still do — bi-weekly to an RRSP; $200 is automatically deducted from my paycheque. I always do a lump sum top up before the end of the year, so my savings always ends up being over $5,000 for the year. 
Why I bought it: I grew up in this area, and my partner is from the Square One area as well, so we wanted to stay close to our aging parents. It’s a nice residential neighbourhood that’s walking distance to Port Credit, and near all major roads and highways. The space and budget fit our lifestyle and will still allow us to continue our lives the way we would like. Home ownership is also a great asset towards building personal wealth. And we love living by the lake — it kind of feels like you’re on vacation everyday.
How the deal went down: When we initially contacted our realtor (A.K.A my cousin) in February 2020, we were just starting to dip our toes in the condo hunt. We were heading into the spring and summer market, so we weren’t dead set on purchasing. But then COVID hit, and prices dropped. We realized that we should seriously consider taking up a good opportunity, as it may be a one-time-chance. We initially put in a bid for another condo nearby. We knew we’d be outbid, but still went along for the ride as our realtor encouraged the experience.
A few weeks later, I ended up seeing our unit without my partner, and it instantly checked 9/10 boxes. Location! Exposure! Parking! The only downside was the kitchen, which was slightly outdated and small. I knew he wouldn't go for it. I relayed the info from my findings, and we agreed to let it pass. About a week or so later, our realtor sent us the link for the same place...but with a reduced price tag (from $474,000 to $445,000). Once we saw the new price, my partner brought up the idea of a reno. It was a furious couple weeks of emailing the condo corporation (to make sure our new vision would even be allowed), our mortgage brokers, our realtor, and everyone we knew who could provide some insight, tips, and cost estimates for our plan.
The ability to renovate was a major deciding factor on bidding for the unit. We closed at the end of June 2020 and were able to get below asking. With the money we saved on our purchase price, we ended up gutting the entire kitchen (new appliances and everything), and replacing the tiles, vanity, and toilet in the bathroom, all of which cost around $30,000. My partner has primarily contributed to the reno. 
What I wish I’d known before I bought: We were lucky. We had an amazing experience and clearly some luck on our side. The only thing I would recommend to others: Do your research! Make sure your finances and paperwork are all ready to go when you start looking, meaning your financial documents — bank accounts, cashable investments, etc., — are ready to share in their official capacity (screengrabs don't usually cut it).
You should also have a letter from your employer that confirms your employment and salary, as well as previous income tax statements and assessments. A good lawyer and mortgage broker will walk you through everything, as no one can possibly remember everything. It's an exciting and nerve-racking process, but if you are set and stable, it shouldn’t be overwhelming.
Submit your How I Bought It here, along with any photos of your home. It’s completely anonymous, meaning you can be fully transparent.

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